Takao Top Omakase

Restaurant: Takao [123, 4, 5]

Location: 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 207-8636

Date: October 16, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: 9/10 creative “new style” sushi

_

I’ve already covered Takao in some detail HERE and then separately herehere and here. The full menu and some information on the history of the place can be found through the first link. This particular meal covers a full $120 Omakase, which actually is a very good value compared to ordering ala carte.


We started off with a lovely “shaved rice” style cold sake. I’ve become increasingly fond of this old-school premium form of sake.


Ankimo (Monk Fish Liver) with ponzu, scallions, and slightly spiced daikkon radish. An excellent example of this classic dish.


White fish with a bit of micro greens, citrus zest, and red peppercorns. A very light and delicious “sashimi salad.”


Toro tartar with caviar. A takao (and Nobu) classic.


Baracuda with ginger, scallions, in a light ponzu. This is not normally my favorite fish, but this preparation was very nice, with a light hint of char on the partially cooked fish.


Grilled Alaskan king crab legs. A sprig of pickled ginger. Very fresh and not frozen tasting, but the sweet vinegar sauce (in the back) totally made the dish.


A classic Japanese style unami flavor. A autumn broth of three kinds of mushrooms and some kind of light fish. The two sauces were a sour plum sauce (I think traditional with this fish) and a really tasty vinegary ponzu.


Sweet Santa Barabara prawn and asparagus tempura. The batter had little crispy riceballs in it which gave the whole thing a different texture. Plus there was both curry salt and sea salt and the traditional tempura sauce for dipping.


Salmon slices, marinated in a miso broth, served sizzling hot in this cast iron pan. You could cook as little or much as you liked. The sweet miso sauce was very tasty too.


A sushi flight. Starting at the left: red snapper, gizzard shad, blue fin tuna, toro, and in front, Santa Barbara uni (sea urchin).


Clam miso. Like regular miso, but with an extra hint of brine.


And for dessert, green tea creme brule with strawberries. It’s very green, with a fairly intense creamy tea flavor.

This was probably my best official omakase at Takao yet (and it’s always good). A very nice meal.

Check out other Takao reviews:  [1234, 5]

For more LA area sushi, see here.

Mori Sushi – A Top Contender

Restaurant: Mori Sushi

Location: 11500 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90064. 310.479.3939

Date: September 14, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: Top sushi, but not cheap

_

In a town full of top grade sushi, Mori Sushi is consistently regarded as one of the best. It has it’s own particular style, somewhere between the Osaka school types like Sasabune and the classic Sushi Sushi.


The interior and sushi bar.

The following meal represents the “Omakase” the largest and most expensive ($170) of the chef’s options. Several truncated or more sushi centric variants are available. This is basically a series of hot dishes followed by flights of sushi.


Kohlrabi greens.


Housemade tofu, with homemade wasabi and soy. This is the soft silken tofu that I’ve had a number of times recently, like at Moko and Ozumo. This particular example was very nice and light.


Sashimi. Left to right: marinated sardines, abalone liver, baby abalone with yuzu/pepper sauce, shitake mushroom, pike eel jelly, marinated Japanese onion, and Japanese okra. The sardines were really good and sweet. The liver reach, like an ugly blob of chicken liver. The abalone tender. And the jelly like a cube of flavorless jello.


One of those subtle Japanese soups. Pike eel (the white stuff), yuzu (the green sliver), and Japanese eggplant.


Santa Barbara sweet shrimp (with the roe), red peppercorns, and in front: scallop, halibut, and octopus sashimi. All this is dressed “new style” with a bit of olive oil and pepper. The shrimp was very sweet and tasty.


Uni (sea urchin) tempura with salt. I forgot to photo it, but this photo is of the same dish at a different restaurant. It was nearly identical, and very good.


Halibut with kelp on the left. Seki buri (wild yellowtail) on the right. Both solid “normal” fishes of extremely high quality.


Big eye chu-toro on the left and blue-fun toro on the right. Yum!


Kohada (Shad gizzard) on the left, pickled in vinegar, and Spanish Mackerel on the right. Also very nice fish.


Grilled baby barracuda on the left with a really nice charred flavor and mirugai (geoduck jumbo clam) with miso sauce on the right.


An uni (sea urchin) duo. Santa Barbara on the left (sweeter), Hokkaido in the middle (very fine also) and very fresh Ikura (salmon roe) with yuzu zest on the right.


Tamago (sweet omelet) on the left and anago (sea eel) on the right, grilled, with a bit of BBQ sauce. The eel had strong grill flavors and less of the cloying (but yummy) sweet sauce than usual.


Toro cut roll. Soft and velvety.


A pair of homemade ice creams for dessert. This is sesame, which tasted it but was a bit gritty and not very creamy.


And ginger ice cream which was very soft and pleasant, like a french vanilla with a ginger kick.


Hojicha, roasted green tea to finish.

Overall, I found Mori Sushi to be top notch. But it’s not cheap (not in the least). The ingredients are top notch and you pay for it. It has a subtle restrained style. I slightly prefer Sushi Sushi with it’s larger pieces or Go Sushi with it’s more over the top flavors. It hands down beats out Sushi Zo in my opinion. Certainly Mori is in the top five or so places in town — and that’s saying a lot as LA is unquestionably the best place in America for sushi.

For more LA sushi reviews click here.

Morihiro Onodera (old owner) in the palm shirt. Masanori Nagano left (new owner).

The Hungry Cat chows Santa Monica

Restaurant: The Hungry Cat

Location: 100 w. channel road. santa monica, ca   90402. (310) 459-3337

Date: September 11 & 25, 2011

Cuisine: Seafood

Rating: Can never get enough seafood

_

I’ve been trying for months to find a convenient time to go to the new opening in our neighborhood, the Westside branch of The Hungry Cat. This particular spot, on the corner of PCH and Channel Road is a bit cursed. Years ago it was the Beach House, which got destroyed in the middle of the night by a crazy driver (who literally crashed into the dining room). Then it was the Brass Cap, a lousy and ill-fated brasserie. After 3-4 years empty it’s now reopened as The Hungry Cat. This is a very raw bar and seafood oriented joint.


I started with a “Dark and Stormy,” the classic Bermuda cocktail. Excellent.


The interior doesn’t look too different than it did in it’s previous incarnations, but it was always a pretty looking place.


Oyster crackers substitute for bread. I’ve always had a weak spot for these puppies, shades of my Eastern Shore of Maryland upbringing. The menu can be found here.


The cat has one of those reasonable corkage policies where they waive the corkage for each bottle you buy off the list. This almost always makes me buy a bottle.


“hawaiian albacore / cherry tomato / cucumber / opal basil / tomato water.” Lots of bright vinegar/citrus flavor hear. Plenty tasty.


“marinated hamachi / stone fruit / shisho / togarashi / lime.” Another nice sashimi dish, although none-too-much fish.


A special. Raw scallop, uni (sea urchin), various salad bits. The combo is great. The scallops tasty. The sea urchin was a little “fishy.” Maybe it’s the Sunday factor, I don’t know. Overall I enjoyed it, but slightly better Uni would have sold it.


“heirloom tomato / watermelon / red onion / persian mint / french feta.”


“heirloom tomato / opal basil / red onion / arugula / burrata / red wine vinaigrette.”


This is the two tier “medium” seafood tower. It was certainly good, although not quite as tasty as the Mastro’s one, but more reasonable also.


On top are shrimp (two types), a bit of trout caviar, Alaskan crab legs, and a half lobster.


Beneath are oysters, muscles, and two types of clams (littleneck and cherrystone).


A nice assortment of sauces.


Off the kids menu. Basic pasta with parmesan.


Fish and chips, also from the kids menu.


A softshell crab in a sort of thai chilli sauce. According to its killer, delicious.

Another special, lobster roll with fries. This was SOLID. As good as a lobster roll gets — and I’ve had plenty. On par with this one I had back east last year.


The dessert menu. But we were too full.

We didn’t try too many things. And I seriously have to come back with some crustacean lovers and get a huge raw bar tower, but I enjoyed this little feline foray. So I’ll return soon enough.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Osteria Latini 3

Restaurant: Osteria Latini [1, 2, 3]

Location: 11712 San Vicente Blvd.Brentwood, CA 90049 310.826.9222

Date: August 20, 2010

Cuisine: Italian

Rating: Excellent neighborhood Italian

_

We have a regular rotation of neighborhood Italians. There are so many of them, but only a few make the cut as genuinely good. Osteria Latini is one of them. You can see my previous reviews here and here.


Olive and chickpea/squash/bean pastes.


The 1997 Biondi-Santi Brunello. This is a solid Brunello I had bought years ago in Italy (probably in 2000). It probably scores somewhere in the low 90s, maybe 91 or 92 points.


A special, lobster bisque.


“BELLA SALAD. Arrugola, pears, dry cherries, goat cheese, shaved parmesan.”


A special, calimari steak stuffed with lump crabmeat and drizzled in ponzu sauce. This is unusual, and certainly has a bit of fusion about it — but it’s good.


Gnocchi genovese (in classic basil pesto).


“ACQUERELLO RISOTTO. Organic carnaroli, sea urchin, truffle scent, lemon zest (Please allow 20 Minutes).” A very nice subtle sea urchin risotto. This special hand shaved rice takes 20-30 minutes to cook.


OSSOBUCO ALLA MILANESE. With saffron risotto.” Latini’s version of the classic dish. Certainly good with a very nice meaty bone. The risotto could have been perhaps a tad creamier.

Two “rounds” of freebee desserts. This mixture of prosecco, lemon sorbetto, and meringue is very refreshing.


Chocolate chip cookies and biscotti.

Osteria Latini is always reliable. They have a big menu of modern Italian favorites and pretty much everything is very good.

For more LA dining reviews click here.

Or for a legion of great eating in Italy itself, here.

Takao Sushi Taking Off!

Restaurant: Takao [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Location: 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 207-8636

Date: August 6, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: 9/10 creative “new style” sushi

_

I’ve already covered Takao in some detail HERE and then separately herehere, and here, but we went back (we go often) and I built another “custom omakase” trying some different things. The full menu and some information on the history of the place can be found through the first link.

As you can see comparing this to the other Takao meals, you my dear readers, come first, as I ordered completely differently for your vicarious enjoyment.

After my spectacular N/Naka Kaiseki meal and its really good sakes I decided to up my sake game. This is the cheapest of the “shaved rice” sakes on the menu at Takao. It was good, not as good as the two amazing ones at N/Naka (Takao has half a dozen “better” ones too), but good.

The chefs at work. Takao himself was cutting for me tonight.

Scallop sashimi. I do love my japanese scallops. There was sea salt to dip them in too.

Toro tartar with caviar. I just can’t resist.

Spanish Mackerel chopped with scallions. Very tasty!

Squid, two ways. On the left normal. And on the right I’m not sure, but it there was a sour (and I mean sour) plum sauce (above left) to dip it in. Same sauce as I had the other day at Kiriko.

Mysterious grilled bit of sea creature. Soft and chewy, not bad.

Grilled Alaskan king crab legs. A sprig of pickled ginger.

On the left Uni (sea urchin) and on the right Ikura (salmon roe).

Fresh water eel with the sweet BBQ sauce.

And then a winter mushroom miso to finish.

For more LA area sushi, see here.

Sushi Glutton – Takao Three

Restaurant: Takao [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Location: 11656 San Vicente Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90049. (310) 207-8636

Date: May 15, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese / Sushi

Rating: 9/10 creative “new style” sushi

_

I’ve already covered Takao in some detail HERE and then separately here, but we went back (we go often) and I built another “custom omakase” trying some different things. The full menu and some information on the history of the place can be found through the first link.


House cold sake. Masumi “Okuden-Kanzukuri” Nagano prefecture.


Heirloom totmato salad with sesame dressing.


Tai (red snapper), with garlic, salt, red peppercorn, onions, olive oil. A very bright flavor, and the peppercorns, not spicy at all, add a nice textural component.


Seared bonito sashimi with scallions and ginger in ponzu.


Miso soup. I think if you ask they have a couple different types. This is the basic scallion and tofu.


Uni (sea urchin) tempura with shiso leaf and seaweed. Sea salt.


There is also the classic tempura dipping sauce.


Here is a closeup of one of the Uni fries. This stuff is yummy! With the crunch of the fry, the minty flavor of the shiso and the briney soft taste/texture of the sea urchin pairing wonderfully.


“Scottish Salmon ‘to-ban’ Taki.” Salmon and vegetables cooked on Japanese earthenware ‘to-ban’ with special Miso sauce.


Rock Shrimp Tempura Dynamite. The underlying component is in itself tasty. Sweet rock shrimp perfectly fried. Then you ad some dynamite with it’s zesty zing and it gets even better. For those not in the know Dynamite is a warm sauce consisting of mayo, sriarcha hot sauce, and masago semlt roe.


The big sushi plate. This was all mine! And so were most of the preceding dishes.


Kani (Alaskan king crab) sushi.


Japanese scallop sushi (raw).


On the bottom, Ika (squid), perfect chewy pasty texture. Underneath was shiso leaf.


Scottish Salmon.


Kanpachi (young yellowtail).


Uni (sea urchin — from Santa Barbara).


kura (salmon eggs).


O-toro (ultra fatty tuna belly). Like butter!


Unagi (fresh water eel) BBQ, with sweet BBQ sauce.


Tamago (sweet egg omelet) sushi.

And this wraps up the custom omakase.

ANY CHARACTER HERE

Below is the Salmon Terriyaki “set dinner,” it comes with everything shown.


Salad.


Mixed tempura.


Miso soup.


Salmon Terriyaki.


Rice.


Choice of dessert, in this case vanilla mochi balls (ice cream coated in sweetened pounded rice).


The chefs at work, Takao himself on the right.

For more LA area sushi, see here.

Sushi Sushi – Small Omakase

Restaurant: Sushi Sushi [12, 3, 4]

Location: 326 1/2 Beverly Dr. Beverly Hills, CA 90212. (310) 277-1165

Date: May 10, 2011

Cuisine: Japanese Sushi

Rating: Old school sushi – fantastic fish and presentation!

ANY CHARACTER HERE

I had the sushi craving and went back again to my new favorite sushi place, Sushi Sushi. Since I have previous tried ala carte, the medium omakase and the giant omakase, I figured I’d give the small omakase a try for completeness. Here is the pictorial record.


We begin with a lovely little sashimi plate. Two items instead of three with the bigger omakases.


Spanish mackerel.


And a slightly different variation on the plate.


Seared bonito, with miso vinagrete (common to both plates). This was delicous, melt in your mouth. I enjoy the extra textural components of the various garnishes too.


Santa Barbara uni (sea urchin). It tops a pile of squid bits and includes pickles and wasabi. The combo is delicious, and all texture.


The rounds of regular sushi begins. Note that all the sushi here has been pre-applied with sauce, even when it’s just soy sauce. This red yummy is maguro (Blue fin tuna). This is some of the best tuna I’ve ever had, totally melts in the mouth.


Tai (Red Snapper), with a ponzu and shavings of the yuzu. This is a lighter fish, but I’m very partial to it.


O-toro, the top grade fatty toro. It melted in the mouse like butter. Always one of my (and everyone else’s) favorites.


“Buri yellowtail.” A special high end type of Hamachi.


This was a piece of scottish salmon. One of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever had. Incredible!


Aji (Spanish Mackerel) on the left, with only the very slightest bit of fishy. Again, a great mackerel. Shimaji mackerel on the right.


On the left Ebi (sweet shrimp) and on the right Japanese scallop. Both wonderful.


Ikura (salmon roe). Perfectly fresh, with just the slightest hint of brine (good). Wonderfully taught, they explode in the mouth like little brine balls.


They say you should judge a sushi chef by his tamago (sweet omelet). By those standards Sushi Sushi rules.


Diced Toro handroll. This shiso leaf and shaved yuzu inside, which added texture, tang, and the exotic and wonderful flavor of the leaf.


Unagi (Fresh water eel). BBQ, with the sweet eel sauce. This was some damn fine eel, as good a piece as I’ve had.


Shirasu. Dried anchovies with plum and shiso. Very interesting and different tasty. Salty and sour.


These last two handrolls were extra, and not included in the Omakase. This one is Mentaiko, cpicy cod fish egg. This is a big slab of cod row, very salty and fishy.

King crab handroll, more approachable than the previous two.

After this extensive survey at Sushi Sushi, trying all three omakases, I’ve concluded that the medium one is the best deal hands down. It is only $15 more than this small one, and has numerous extra dishes. The grand one, while better than the medium (bigger) is only very very slightly different.

Check out more LA Sushi reviews here.